Doom (2005)

“They’re marines, Sam, not poets.”

The Scoop: 2005 R, directed byAndrzej Bartkowiak and starring Karl Urban, The Rock and Rosamund Pike

Tagline: Hell breaks loose.

Summary Capsule: It’s just like Aliens! If Aliens starred a fake wrestler who can’t act, a plot swisscheesed full of holes, and a forced first person perspective gimmick, that is.


Justin’s rating:
Knee-deep in the dead.

Justin’s review: About the only fun thing of seeing this movie is saying its title in a melodramatic, Vincent Price-type voice: “DOOOOOM!” After that, you’re left with nothing. Wasteland. Void. The Abyss. Just the discarded wrappings of The Rock’s glares (who ever even suggested to this man that acting was right up his alley?) and a couple of bags of plagiarized trash that need to be taken to the dumpster when you have a minute.

As a video game, Doom was one of the most influential games ever. Coming on the scene in 1993, it revolutionized the fairly new genre of first person shooters, delivering an intense game full of firefights and horror, along with wicked kill-your-friends-for-kicks multiplayer (this was even before the internet got very popular). It’s always been a main target for anti-game politicians (especially after Columbine), and it’s one of the best-selling games of all time.

But…

It doesn’t have much of a story. Doom’s narrative is the definition of “bare minimum:” Hell breaks loose on Mars, you’re the only one left to deal with the invading demons, you got guns. Point and shoot. Someone once tried to make a comic book of the game, which resulted in one of the most hilarious pieces of gory nonsense you’d ever have the privilege of reading. However, to try to bank a movie on the success of this paper-thin franchise seemed dubious at best. And so it is.

The makers of Doom had an uphill battle to try to bring in the mainstream audience, so they went and promptly shot themselves in the foot — a little Doom humor there for ya — by changing enough of the classic Doom feel to alienate most of the hardcore fans. No longer was a portal to Hell involved, or one man fighting alone, or demon anythings; like a weakening hurricane, this flick was downgraded to a tropical storm of been-there, blasted-that genetic tampering and Aliens ripoffs.

Also, for some reason, even though the bulk of the movie is set on Mars, the filmmakers hardly ever show a window or an establishing outside shot of the planet surface. The whole thing could be taking place in an underground lab in New Jersey, and we’d be none the more informed for it.

The Rock is The Sarge, a role he was born to play — but only in his backyard as a kid. In movie format, The Rock just kind of glares at everyone to the point where I think he’s suffering from myopia, and he’s only the main hero by virtue of being the top billing star. His team, some sort of rapid response association of jocks and stereotypes (RRAJS), don’t really flesh out the film any further other than being target practice for the hungry critters over on Mars. They try, they really do, to bite out snappy one-liners and have individual personalities, but… well, they all have mothers who might read this site, and I don’t want to abuse them of the notion that their boys didn’t completely waste their lives.

Doom’s been compared to Resident Evil for the obvious reason — both movies are about a special ops team going into a high tech facility where Something Really Bad has happened. It just boggles my mind how Doom could take something that simple and really botch it, unlike Resident Evil’s fairly cohesive, Oscar-worthy story.

The biggest problem is that the filmmakers never make it too clear for the audience where the characters are in relation to everything else. Once they get to Mars, you’d expect them to find a mostly dead facility, and the group sticking together as they blast their way to the final boss, right? Nope. There’s actually a ton of employees still working there, largely unconcerned that a genetic horde is rampaging through the break room and making off with Theresa from marketing. The group keeps splitting up and retracing their tracks over and over and over again. We revisit the same rooms repeatedly, having no idea where they are in the facility, and characters keep running between the rooms to respond to the latest monster attack or weak revelation. Really disorienting.

Heck, even later in the movie the action switches to a very similar-looking facility on EARTH, and it took me a while to be sure we’d switched to Earth as a setting because — again, no establishing shots or anything — the movie doesn’t make it very clear. I think they edited this thing on a Commodore 64, which might explain it.

Even the whole scary monster angle is diluted to the point of no effect, since the movie is trying far too hard to give us an explanation behind their mutations, instead of just letting the fun dumb take over and going hog wild. The facility isn’t that inherently scary, the monsters not too different from stuff we’ve seen before, and the “Boo!” sequences are telegraphed a mile away so you have time to be doing something more important, like playing Snake on your cell phone. Curse that snake. I will have my revenge.

There’s far too much wandering and talking to shooting ratio imbalance to make anyone antsy for the final shootout. When it happens, it’s insanely stupid: the movie suddenly puts us in a first person point-of-view, so we essentially watch the video game as the movie takes us around the facility blasting critters without the help of God mode or a save game. There’s a glowing recommendation for ya: it’s like the game, only if you were watching it over your friend’s shoulder and you weren’t allowed to play it!

Shalen’s rating: … and gloom.

Shalen’s review: So! It’s Hell Week, and this movie is about an invasion from Hell.

Well, the videogame was. Or so I heard. I never played it. But I do own this movie. It’s stupid and loud, which makes it a good match to, say, lifting weights while watching, something I don’t do as much as formerly but enough to make it worth keeping around.

And, of course, you know the ladies love to watch fellas flex and growl at each other, or why would there always be the “other man” in romcoms (another visit to Hell entirely)? The filmmakers, perhaps having paid by the square inch of surface area for the Rock, show off a fair amount of same. They must not have put out as much cash for Karl “an Elf, a Dwarf, and a Man walk into the Riddermark” Urban. He keeps his shirt on the whole time. (Surprisingly, so does his extremely convincing sister the scientist. I’m not sure who decided to write her out of being a love interest, but I’m all for it.) But, I’m guessing the studio reasoned, there’s a nasty guy who makes stupid jokes and some throwing up happens, so that should keep the male part of the audience happy. And by “male part of the audience,” I mean “probably every part of the audience that isn’t me.”

Oh, and there are some guns and monsters, too. Not demons from Hell or anything, just genetically engineered victims with some sort of virus that only infects “evil” people. As it turns out, the unmapped ten percent of the human genome (I’ll bet that’s news to the folks at the Human Genome Project who thought they were finished in 2003) contains the information as to whether you are a good person or a bad person. So those of you planning to send your kids to private religious schools can save your money.

Sadly, we don’t see all that much of the monsters. Mostly we see guys running through hallways in the dark — and we all know how much fun that is to watch. Actually, some of you must think it is, because you bought the videogame to begin with, whereas Deus Ex II was the last thing I played that resembled an FPS. But, as Justin touched on, there’s a whole different level of excitement, suspense and involvement in even the lower-budget video games than in a movie, where you sit passively and watch.

If you like big, dumb and loud, and every movie you watch mysteriously develops its own MST3K style mock track, you might enjoy this one. I do.

Intermission

  • The names of scientists Dr. Todd Carmack and Dr. Willits are references to Todd Hollenshead, John Carmack and Tim Willits, developers of the Doom game
  • When Portman and Goat check the chemical levels in the airlock, Portman mentions magnesium, chromium, and lead. We see his “chemical detection” device, and in the order he stated, follow the symbols Mg, Cr, and Ld. The symbol for lead is not Ld, but Pb.
  • Sarge keeps referring to the RRTS members as “soldiers” but they are not army, they are marines.
  • In the opening Universal logo, the Earth is replaced with Mars.
  • A remixed version of the classic Doom theme was used in the first-person sequence.
  • The Rock was offered the lead role of John Grimm, but chose the role of Sarge because he thought it was more interesting.
  • A nuclear explosion sequence on the Mars facility was filmed but not used in the final cut.
  • The first person shooter (FPS) sequence took about 14 days to shoot.
  • The closing credits begin with a first-person-shooter point of view, leading on a mission and shooting the various credits that appear.

Groovy Quotes

Sarge: [after unlocking Bio-Force Gun vault] Now *that*… is a big f**king gun.

Samantha Grimm: So, “Reaper”? As in “Grim”?
John Grimm: They’re Marines, Sam, not poets.

Sarge: Kill them all, let God sort them out.

The Kid: Is it always that rough?
Pinky: Believe me, it used to be a lot rougher. There was a time when Ark travel was susceptible to, let’s say major turbulence.
The Kid: What’s he mean?
John Grimm: He means he went to one galaxy, his ass went to another.
Pinky: Call it a scientific miscalculation.

Portman: Ladies, we’re under a Level 5 quarantine so I’m gonna have to strip search you girls.

Samantha Grimm: 10% of the human genome is still unmapped. Some say it’s the genetic blueprint for the soul.

If you enjoyed this movie, try:

  • Resident Evil
  • House of the Dead
  • House of the Dead 2

5 comments

  1. •Sarge keeps referring to the RRTS members as “soldiers” but they are not army, they are marines.

    I had a grandfather who was in the Marines during WWII and can confirm that you should never call a Marine a soldier.

  2. […] Who can say what writers were thinking when they interpreted “Magical adventure of a plumber in the sunny mushroom kingdom” as “dimension traversing trip through a poor man’s blade runner set”? We can be fairly sure that at some point, however, someone went “I’m WAY smarter than the Japanese guy whose idea is so popular we’re making it into a movie”. This is a form of dementia common among Hollywood screenwriters. It’s known as “Big dumb stupidheadness”. I can think of no bigger example of this form of Hollywood arrogance than in the movie version of Doom. […]

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